Saturday, January 2, 2016

Game 38 - The One Where I Write About Jo Drouin

Game: 38
Opponent: New York Rangers
Score: 2-5 Regulation Loss

So yeah, I didn't watch this game. Thanks to the weird NHL Gamecenter blackout rules I wasn't eligible to watch the game live. It was “blacked out” in my area. Which, if I had cable I would understand. But I don't. And the folks that control these things know that. How do I know? Because when I log into NBC Sports they say that I don't have cable so I'm not eligible to watch the game online through their website. Good times.

Instead I watched a bit of the Penguins/Toronto game. Wow, I thought Lightning fans had it bad. Pittsburgh fans must be super sad this season. After that I went to the bar, had a grilled cheese sandwich and a couple of beers, went home and listened to the third period of the Lightning game.

Apparently they didn't play that well. Even the ever-excited Dave Mishkin sounded depressed when the final horn sounded. He made a point to mention that except for a brief time in the third period they lacked urgency. Jonathan Drouin played in the game. In his 10:51 of playing time he managed be on the ice for 2 of the Rangers goals, he mustered one shot and had one takeaway. Not one of his better stat lines.

On Saturday the Lightning made a roster move. Johnathan Drouin was reassigned to Syracuse of the AHL in order to make room for Ondrej Palat who is set to come back against the Minnesota Wild. The move sent a shock wave through the Lightning community. Well maybe a shock ripple. Let's see what the response was. Here are some replied to Erik Erlendsson's Tweet:

@Ax-NHL: Bust

Yes, let's label him a bust with less than 100 games played in the NHL.

@Probbins47: Is Cooper turning into the NHL's Chip Kelly?

What? I don't even get the point this person is trying to make. First of all, Coach Cooper doesn't have final say in player moves. If Steve Yzerman want's Drouin on the roster, he would be on the roster. Also, Coach Cooper actually wins trophies.

@BraizNasty: wow TB is falling apart
@BuckB727: this organization is a mess
@_Dixieland_: what is wrong with TB

Guys. Do you remember the dark days? Do you remember when The Cowboys were in charge? Do you remember when they couldn't make payroll? That's an organization that is falling apart. This is an organization that hit a speed bump and is trying to get their top prospect some playing time.

@giamberadino: this seems to be a recurring pattern with their superstars

Yes. All of the Lightning superstars have been sent back to the minors. Remember when Stamkos and Hedman racked up all of those points with Norfolk?

Everybody needs to relax. As some other, slightly more rational, fans have pointed out, Drouin is caught up in a numbers game. With Palat coming back, the Lightning have a ton of forwards on the roster. Drouin is able to be sent down to Syracuse and not have to pass through waivers. Nobody else that might be sent down has that luxury.

Also, as much of a fan of Drouin as I am, I admit that he has struggled this year. Sadly his stat line against the Rangers isn't that much different than what he's been doing since the beginning of the year. He's had his chances on the top line and while he show's flashes of belonging, for the most part he hasn't earned his spot on the roster.

Going down to Syracuse will allow him to play 20 minutes a game. It will allow him to develop the aspects that he might be struggling with. I'm sure that Mr. Yzerman and Coach Cooper have told him what they're looking for in his play in the AHL. The general manager has already said that Drouin will be back up this year.

The Lightning are not giving up on Drouin. They are trying to make him better. That's all this is about. He might be pissed about getting demoted. Heck I'm glad he's pissed. If he wasn't I would wonder about his desire to play. Now he needs to turn that anger into points. He needs to rack up the points, win face-offs, backcheck and protect the puck like a madman. Show them the player they think he is. Make it impossible for them to keep him down there for long.

I think a lot of this, and the a lot of the #FreeDrouin “controversy” could have been avoided. Drouin wasn't ready for the NHL last year. Or at least he wasn't ready for the Lightning NHL team. He shouldn't be playing 10 minutes on the fourth line. He is a top six forward and he should be playing 17-20 minutes a game.

If the Lightning could have put him in the AHL last year, he could have spent that year developing some of the skills that he struggles with in the NHL. However, the Lightning didn't have that option. It was either the NHL or juniors – a league in which Drouin had nothing left to prove.

It is one of those situations that makes fans wonder if the current agreement between the NHL and the Canadian Hockey League needs some refreshing. For the most part it makes sense. A lot of the 18 and 19 year olds drafted are not ready for professional hockey. However, from time to time there is a player that is stuck in between.

Perhaps each organization should be allowed an exemption. I don't want to see all of the talent flow out of Juniors. It would be detrimental to the league and to the development of a vast majority of the players that come through the program. However, some flexibility would help teams with players caught in the middle – players like Jonathan Drouin.

Did Matt Carle Get a Point?

Nope. Another game and another goose egg. He saw 13 minutes of ice time and, like Drouin, was a -2.

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